Titanfall handles well in the wild, but those campaigns are a mess – opinion

By Dave Cook
12 March 2014 14:13 GMT

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Titanfall reviews happened on Tuesday, but we held off to give you a fairer view of how the online shooter handles outside of a press environment. Dave Cook says it’s fine, but feels the campaigns are pointless.

Titanfall Screen 4

As you can see from these Titanfall reviews, the games press really liked Respawn Entertainment’s shooter debut. I get the feeling few people were surprised at the numbers after months of hype and positive coverage.

“The skill-set picked up from Call of Duty is applicable in Titanfall in that you need to move fast, shoot quick and be wary of each arena’s layout. That’s pretty much where the raw comparisons end.”

For months many of you complained that the press was being suckered into the vortex of excitement and headlines orchestrated by EA’s marketing puppeteers and spin doctors, and that the game couldn’t possibly be as good as we were all making out. God forbid the critics get universally optimistic about a game for once, but I agree with the critical consensus; Titanfall a superb shooter that offers a new dynamic on the twitch arena format. It is a good game.

We’re not a review site, but given Titanfall’s online-only nature, we didn’t feel right about fully appraising the game based on an enclosed press event. That’s why I’ve been playing the shooter as much as possible at home on my 60MB wired line, with a view to gauging just how well it holds together in the wild. I’m also up to level 25, so I’ve spent a great deal of time playing around with Respawn’s suite of firearms, Titan upgrades and more.

Reach for the Sky

Titanfall’s just Call of Duty with robots, except it’s not Call of Duty with robots. I see this presumption often, and it’s flat-out incorrect. The barebones twitch handling is fast and the button-mapping is the same as Activision’s franchise – but so what? That’s like saying Modern Warfare 3 is just Quake 3: Arena with more moustaches. It’s a bullshit comparison.

Titanfall Screen 5

I play Call of Duty a lot with my friends, and have done so almost religiously since the first Modern Warfare came out. I’ll concede that the skill-set picked up from those games is applicable in Titanfall to a point in that you need to move fast, shoot quick and be wary of each arena’s layout. That’s pretty much where the raw comparisons end, and that’s also why Respawn’s game is refreshing.

To begin my play-test I hopped into the Militia campaign, which sees a rag-tag rebel force locking horns with the IMC faction across the Frontier; a cluster of fringe colonies engaged in a violent power struggle. You’re given the option of playing through the stories of both sides sequentially, thanks to a pre-made playlist. These lists are still online-only, and see you match-made with other players across a variety of game modes.

Between each map you’re treated to some overlaid dialogue in the lobby, which sets up the modus operandi of each faction, and the reason for each skirmish. Matches feature additional radio chatter from various characters as their stories play out away from the battlefield, but I’ll admit I had a hard time following what was going on amid all the gunfire and 30-foot robots exploding all over the joint. As a method of narrative delivery it’s a total mess.

Lobby downtime is typically spent building your pilot and Titan class load-outs. Chances are you’ll be too busy sifting through your Burn Card deck, tweaking your weapon attachments or thinking about how to improve your arsenal to let all the story chatter sink in. Aside from the opening cut-scene which also does a weak job of explaining the world state and the reason for this costly war, there are no story scenes to speak of. Just an assortment of characters you feel nothing for, and lines of heinous dialogue you can’t help smirk at.

Titanfall Screen 2

“Respawn’s interwoven online campaign was something of an error. I would have liked an offline or possibly co-op campaign to establish Titanfall’s universe.”

In short; the events of the Titan Wars led former IMC officer James MacAllan to turn on his old corporation, and is now waging war against Vice Admiral Marcus Graves. Some missions see players fighting for control of fuel deposits or auto turrets, but I honestly found the story largely superfluous. I didn’t really care about these people or their war, which leads me to believe that Respawn’s interwoven online campaign was something of an error. Now that I think about, sitting here, I would have liked an offline or possibly co-op campaign to establish Titanfall’s universe.

The maps themselves do reveal slivers of plot, such as the desert wastes of Boneyard, with their giant alien skeletons, which suggest the IMC has ravaged nature with its rampant industrialisation. Such presumptions are left up to the player however, and I guess that’s fun as someone who likes to use their imagination in games, but those who want a straight-up tale may be left wanting. The end of the Militia campaign is supposed to be emotional, and there’s even a sad tune overlaid across the continuing carnage. The hammy dialogue makes what should have been poignant utterly comedic.

After the climax, I wiped the laugh-tears from my eyes and went into the core online mode.

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